2020 has been a challenging year for the travel and hospitality industry. Following a prolonged revenue dry spell, industry leaders may feel the need to reexamine the inner workings of their brands.
But how do you know if it’s time to rebrand your hotel?
Rebranding isn’t the same as giving your hotel a makeover, refurbishing the interior and ordering a new logo. When considering if your hotel needs a rebrand, you are acknowledging that something in the current practices of your hotel is simply not bringing in enough value to your business. And in all likelihood, the issue does not exist in isolation from the rest of your hotel’s operations.
Consider the following:
- Have your establishment’s OTA consumer ratings dropped over the last year? If so, is the unifying factor the quality of the service provided or has there been a shift in the expectations of your target guests?
- Was your brand built around a trendy lifestyle movement, and are you now struggling to be seen as a veteran establishment, limiting your outreach to more lucrative hotel guest prospects?
- Have you attempted to optimize your business model in a way that has led you to blend in with the competition instead of standing out?
- Has the demographic of your usual guests seen a sharp shift over the last decade? And if so, have you acknowledged it in the way you market your hotel?
- Have you made significant improvements to your property and if so are they properly showcased?
- Are you the same business that you were a decade ago? If so, has this brought value to your brand or have you seen a steady decline in hotel guest interest?
It is easy to blame issues within hospitality to the disruptive nature of online travel agencies, or the current unprecedented global health crisis. But it would be an oversight not to look within and acknowledge that change might be needed if you wish to advance your establishment’s position within the hospitality industry.
Here are five key steps to a successful hotel rebranding:
1. Evaluate data on all relevant performance metrics
Tracking your key performance metrics, for the past few years or since the most recent brand upgrade you have made (a new website or partnership) up to the last days before the COVID-19 lockdown can help you determine the financial aspect of your rebranding.
If you were to focus not only on the metrics that have been falling but also the ones that have plateaued, you can determine the true nature of your brand’s fatigue. It is fairly straightforward to look at a failing metric and acknowledge that changes need to be made, but it is a far greater challenge to look at one which does not budge despite repeated attempts of improvement.
Determine which of the following is more likely to underperform:
- Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) - Are your room rates set in accordance to market demand or are you employing a more conservative approach by basing rates on historic data rather than seasonal demand?
- Cost per Occupied Room (CPOR) and Occupancy - If your cost per occupied room has remained the same over a long period of time, then it’s probably costing you quite a bit during a low occupancy crisis.
- Gross Operating Profit per Available Room (GOPPAR) - 2020 will see hotels incurring heavy revenue losses, which is why it is so important to pin down your hotel’s steadiest source of revenue and improve on it.
If you can pull at the right thread you can follow it all the way back to its core issue. It’s true that during 2020 all of your metrics will be anomalous, and driving any kind of revenue will be a priority, but if you have been in the business for a while you can strategize effectively how to come out on the other end of a crisis.
At the same time, you must ask yourself if you are preparing your hotel for the potential of post-COVID-19 travel and hospitality? Ironically this might be the ideal time to determine your hotel’s weak points and rebrand as a way to improve on them.
2. Build your rebranding strategy around a new guest persona
Hotel rebranding definitely calls for a new guest persona. The persona itself is abstract; an accumulation of behaviours exhibited by your most generous guests, which when assembled helps hoteliers better understand how to create a better guest experience and attract the kind of clientele who would best appreciate it.
Your hotel’s guest persona will become the centre of your brand. Personas are built with the intent of generating loyalty and increasing the value of a guest by attracting guests who are more likely to become recurring visitors.
Using a persona to designate the niche best suited to your business, does not keep away other guests who may not fit its model. Instead what the persona does is it helps you create a cohesive image of your hotel brand in a way that is most likely to appeal to the people who would engage with your message wholeheartedly.
3. Invest in the appropriate hotel software upgrades
Hotel software solutions are the cornerstone of modern hospitality. The systems which you use to run your business are as essential to your presentation as is your onsite staff. Many hotel chains use hospitality software to distinguish their brand name by utilizing guest-oriented solutions such as self-check-in kiosks and self-service apps.
Modern guests treat their app library as a digital cardholder. If you want to remain at the top of their list for potential lodging, the best way to do this is to make sure that your hotel’s logo is one of the apps they scroll by every day. But this is how we view hotel software in terms of customer relations, the real change it brings to your hotel happens behind the scenes.
A well-integrated hotel property management system (PMS) can reshape your establishment's everyday operations, to the point it can almost entirely eliminate much of the friction created by having to maintain your own database, update room rates across various distribution channels, manage to overbook, and optimize auxiliary revenue sources. With the right PMS, you can set your sights to rebranding your hotel with ease, guaranteeing that you can deliver on your promises to your guests.
4. Launch your new brand after removing all links to your old one
Your brand carries your message to your guests, which is why you do not want to send mixed signals to your guests. Once you have chosen what route to take in rebranding your establishment you would need to make certain to eliminate the following:
- Hotel Homepage - The webpage designer who is in charge of updating your homepage is the person you can turn to for a deadline as to when the branding aspect of your strategy will be implemented. Your hotel’s website is your flagship store. Regardless of whether you operate a small privately-owned hotel or a small or medium-sized hotel chain, your website is likely going to be the most extensive introduction your guests will receive of you. So make sure it’s the right one.
- Affiliate links - if you have a standing partnership with businesses you need to be certain that the information on their websites is up to date with your rebranding plan. This step can often be overlooked as it requires delegating some of your rebranding tasks to a partner. This can often lead to slow response on the other end, as you never know how high of a priority your new brand might be. As such it is best to begin as soon as you have the completed advertisement materials and your new website.
- Distribution Channels - The challenge here is to trace every online distribution channel which has at some point been a host of your services. Airbnb, Tripadvisor, and Booking aside, there are many smaller online travel agencies which you might have tried out at some point. Be diligent by tracking down old logos and company information.
- Paid Advertisements - It is best to end all running advertisements ahead of time, possibly replacing them with teasers of your rebranded hotel.
Social Media - Migrating social media presence is a challenge. Some platforms might be willing to accept a name change but the process can be arduous and might not be ready in time for your brand’s relaunch. It’s the best to use your existing social media presence to redirect attention to your hotel’s new profile and by making the last post of your old profile the link to the new one.
In order for your hotel's new identity to thrive, the old one needs to fade away. In order to achieve this effect, you will need to set out months ahead of time and be extremely patient and diligent in order to effectively replace the old with the new.
5. Be honest with yourself and your guests
Aspirational rebrandings, where the hotel owner is trying to ride a trend, tend to underperform, warranting another rebrand soon after. While hotel rebranding can be a useful approach to remaining relevant in hospitality, the industry itself does not look too kindly on change.
Having too many rebrandings close together would put out the message that your establishment does not have a clear place in this market, while also eroding chances of building guest loyalty.
When you acknowledge that your hotel is in need of change, you are forfeiting the part of your hotel’s identity that no longer serves the business end of hospitality. Maybe you set out to be a business hotel, but have only had middling success in acquiring corporate guests. On the other hand, however, you have become a favourite spot for large family gatherings, and weddings, with a strong presence of family vacationers.
In such a case rebranding to reflect the interest that is shown your hotel will not alienate any of the corporate clients you have acquired over the years, but it will drive more interest by your true demographic.